At the president’s New Jersey golf course, an undocumented immigrant has worked as a maid since 2013. She said she never imagined she “would see such important people close up.”
BEDMINSTER, N.J. — During more than five years as a housekeeper at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., Victorina Morales has made Donald J. Trump’s bed, cleaned his toilet and dusted his crystal golf trophies. When he visited as president, she was directed to wear a pin in the shape of the American flag adorned with a Secret Service logo.
Because of the “outstanding” support she has provided during Mr. Trump’s visits, Ms. Morales in July was given a certificate from the White House Communications Agency inscribed with her name.
Quite an achievement for an undocumented immigrant housekeeper.
Ms. Morales’s journey from cultivating corn in rural Guatemala to fluffing pillows at an exclusive golf resort took her from the southwest border, where she said she crossed illegally in 1999, to the horse country of New Jersey, where she was hired at the Trump property in 2013 with documents she said were phony.
She said she was not the only worker at the club who was in the country illegally.
Sandra Diaz, 46, a native of Costa Rica who is now a legal resident of the United States, said she, too, was undocumented when she worked at Bedminster between 2010 and 2013. The two women said they worked for years as part of a group of housekeeping, maintenance and landscaping employees at the golf club that included a number of undocumented workers, though they could not say precisely how many. There is no evidence that Mr. Trump or Trump Organization executives knew of their immigration status. But at least two supervisors at the club were aware of it, the women said, and took steps to help workers evade detection and keep their jobs.
“There are many people without papers,” said Ms. Diaz, who said she witnessed several people being hired whom she knew to be undocumented.
Mr. Trump has made border security and the fight to protect jobs for Americans a cornerstone of his presidency, from the border wall he has pledged to build to the workplace raids and payroll audits that his administration has carried out.
During the presidential campaign, when the Trump International Hotel opened for business in Washington, Mr. Trump boasted that he had used an electronic verification system, E-Verify, to ensure that only those legally entitled to work were hired.
“We didn’t have one illegal immigrant on the job,” Mr. Trump said then.
[Read more immigration coverage from Miriam Jordan]
But throughout his campaign and his administration, Ms. Morales, 45, has been reporting for work at Mr. Trump’s golf course in Bedminster, where she is still on the payroll. An employee of the golf course drives her and a group of others to work every day, she says, because it is known that they cannot legally obtain driver’s licenses.
A diminutive woman with only two years of education who came to the United States speaking no English, Ms. Morales has had an unusual window into one of the president’s favorite retreats: She has cleaned the president’s villa while he watched television nearby; she stood on the sidelines when potential cabinet members were brought in for interviews and when the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, arrived to confer with the president.
“I never imagined, as an immigrant from the countryside in Guatemala, that I would see such important people close up,” she said.
But Ms. Morales said she has been hurt by Mr. Trump’s public comments since he became president, including equating Latin American immigrants with violent criminals. It was that, she said, along with abusive comments from a supervisor at work about her intelligence and immigration status, that made her feel that she could no longer keep silent.
“We are tired of the abuse, the insults, the way he talks about us when he knows that we are here helping him make money,” she said. “We sweat it out to attend to his every need and have to put up with his humiliation.”
Ms. Morales and Ms. Diaz approached The New York Times through their New Jersey lawyer, Anibal Romero, who is representing them on immigration matters. Ms. Morales said that she understood she could be fired or deported as a result of coming forward, though she has applied for protection under the asylum laws. She is also exploring a lawsuit claiming workplace abuse and discrimination.
In separate, hourslong interviews in Spanish, Ms. Morales and Ms. Diaz provided detailed accounts of their work at the club and their interactions with management, including Mr. Trump. Both women described the president as demanding but kind, sometimes offering hefty tips.
While they were often unclear on precise dates of when events occurred, they appeared to recollect key events and conversations with precision.
Ms. Morales has had dealings with Mr. Trump that go back years, and her husband has confirmed that she would on occasion come home jubilant because the club owner had paid her a compliment, or bestowed on her a $50 or sometimes a $100 tip.
To ascertain that she was in fact an employee of the club, The Times reviewed Ms. Morales’s pay stubs and W-2 forms, which list the golf course as her employer. She also made available her Individual Taxpayer Identification, a nine-digit number that is issued by the Internal Revenue Service to foreigners to enable them to file taxes without being permanent residents of the United States. Having a number does not confer eligibility to work.
The Times also examined the documents Ms. Morales presented as proof that she was entitled to work — a permanent resident card, or green card, and a Social Security card, both of which she said she purchased from someone in New Jersey who produced counterfeit documents for immigrants.
The Times ran Ms. Morales’s purported Social Security number through several public records databases and none produced a match, which is often an indication that the number is not valid. The number on the back of the green card that Ms. Morales has on file at the golf course does not correspond to the format of numbers used on most legitimate resident cards. For example, it includes initials that do not match those of any immigration service centers that issue the cards.
Ms. Diaz produced similar documents, though since she has gained legal residence she has been issued a genuine Social Security card and green card.
The Trump Organization, which owns the golf course, did not comment specifically on Ms. Morales or Ms. Diaz. “We have tens of thousands of employees across our properties and have very strict hiring practices,” Amanda Miller, the company’s senior vice president for marketing and corporate communications, said in a statement. “If an employee submitted false documentation in an attempt to circumvent the law, they will be terminated immediately.”
The White House declined to comment.